FORTVILLE — Defense has been Mt. Vernon’s staple all season long.
It led the Marauders to 16 wins and a sectional title — not to mention 11 shutouts.
No. 7 Center Grove’s offense, however, proved too lethal Saturday in the Mt. Vernon Regional final. The Trojans scored two first-half goals en route to a 4-1 win against the host Marauders.
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The win gives Center Grove a regional repeat and a date with Bloomington South on Saturday at the Evansville Harrison Semistate.
Despite an inspiring performance from junior Josh Powell in goal, Mt. Vernon (16-3-1) could not hold on after allowing two scores 10 minutes into the match. Junior midfielder Conner Campbell and senior defender Nathan Silva each found the net and carried the Trojans (18-2-1) to a 2-0 advantage at the break.
“They make runs you don’t see a lot of teams do,” Marauders head coach Matt Mayhew said. “One guy creates space and the other guy fills it. They were quick and technical.”
Campbell scored near the box on a throw in from senior defender Brian Wheeler eight minutes in, and Silva followed two minutes later off a free kick at the top of the box, rifling a ball under Powell.
“(We wanted) to get the ball, swing it around to the weak side,” Center Grove coach Jameson McLaughlin said. “They press really hard … get it inside the box and see if we can get it back towards the middle. We did that a few times and had an awesome free kick.”
Powell recorded 11 saves in the first half and finished with 17 in the match. Those numbers left McLaughlin impressed.
“That’s the best goalkeeper we’ve seen all season,” he said. “He made some diving stops there to keep them in it.”
Mt. Vernon challenged Trojan keeper Logan Wade in the first half too, forcing the senior to make five saves. The Marauders had their chances in the second, as well, as Wade finished with ten stops in the contest.
Center Grove senior forward Conrad Bomber, who had two assists in the semifinal round, added a dagger 10 minutes into the second half with a close score in a crowded box to give Center Grove a 3-0 lead.
Senior forward Reed Sauter scored the Trojans final goal with 11:41 left on the clock, dribbling right and beating Powell on the left side.
A late goal by senior Devin Nelson with four minutes to go in the game was the only score for Mt. Vernon. Senior Noah Laughlin just missed a goal at the 15-minute mark, banging a deep shot off the top-left goal post.
The Marauders managed nine shots on goal in the game, five in the first half. They actually came out as the early aggressor, nearly capitalizing on two scores four minutes into the game.
“It wasn’t in the cards for us tonight,” Mayhew said.
Mt. Vernon, in Mayhew’s first season as head coach, added nine wins from 2014 (7-9) and finished first in the Hoosier Heritage Conference (6-1), tied with New Palestine. The team won its first sectional title since 2012 and added an impressive win during the regular season against state-ranked Fishers.
Powell finished with 14 scores allowed out of 185 shots on goals in his first season as a varsity goalie. He only gave up 0.7 goals per game while his 204 saves (10.4 per game) ranks sixth in the state.
“He’s been our rock back there all season,” added Mayhew.
Four players finished with nine or more goals this season for the Marauders while four players also finished with five or more assists in a balanced offensive attack. Junior striker Carson Jones tallied 16 goals and 6 assists (38 points) to lead the team.
Sophomore forward Timmy Clone added 11 goals, while Nelson and classmate Luke Yeadon each scored nine. Yeadon also had five assists from his midfield position.
Junior Jarret Whitehouse led the Marauders with 12 assists while also knocking in five scores on the year.
Nelson, Yeadon, Laughlin, Matt Pruitt and Josh Williams will all graduate after being a part of two sectional title teams in four years of high school.
“I’m happy with the teamwork this season,” Mayhew said. “They came together as a family, and they played for each other. You hate it for your guys, but they all care about one another.”